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ISC West Is An Industry Tax, If You Don't Exhibit Then You Don't Exist

This show is an industry tax, if you don't exhibit then you don't exist.

NOTICE: This comment was moved from an existing discussion: The Hanwha Techwin Million Dollar ISC West Booth

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I disagree generally but I think this is a very interesting point, so I made this its own discussion.

So any manufacturer who is dependant on ISC West for existing, or more broadly for reaching new customers, is a company who needs to do more on their online marketing.

It's 1 week out of 52. If you are spending $50,000 on that week (and most manufacturers easily do), how much are you spending online?

The richness of an in-person event is certainly going to be greater but the tradeoff is that the reach (thousands vs hundreds of thousands) and repetitiveness (once vs dozens of times) is far better online.

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So if Axis does not exhibit at ISC-West it won't significantly impact their future performance in the industry?

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I don't think it would be significant. Think of it this way, Axis spends a negligible percentage of their revenue of ISC West. They do ~$500+ million annually in North America, so their spend on ISC West is ~0.1% of their revenue.

By contrast, manufacturers like yourself are spending 1 or 2% of your annual revenue on ISC West.

And yes during the show many people would wonder if Axis was ok but given how big Axis is, many would be also wondering if something was wrong with ISC West. However, so long as Axis keeps releasing lots of new products and they have their massive sales team, ISC West is mostly noisy in the grand scheme of things for Axis.

I am not saying Axis should not go just that given their overall organizational strength, it is just an ordinary course of business for Axis, not a determination of their existence.

Now, that I have answered your question, care to respond to my claim that you should do with online marketing and overall marketing outside of a 1 week show?

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I agree ISC-W is just a facet of a larger overall marketing strategy (to include online marketing).  However, I am convinced ISC-W is the keystone and is required.

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If I did not know you, I would almost never hear about your company. You have a bigger marketing problem. ISC West is an expensive means to try to compensate for that.

You should be thinking about how you improve your marketing/positioning year round.

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Nice job turning a general point into a company slam, I knew I could count on you.  I argue we are playing our hand as efficiently as possible and our growth reflects that.  Further... there is not a department in our organization that is operating perfectly, including marketing.  Your point has been noted.

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Nice job turning a general point into a company slam, I knew I could count on you.

Not meant to be a slam, consider it free consulting from someone who studies the market and marketing deeply. It's not like I called your company out by name, so you get the benefits of the advice without any public negative branding.

Seriously, your marketing is weak and you should spend more time and effort figuring out how to improve that vs trying to make the year in 3 days.

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Lots of our industry manufacturers suck (hard) at marketing... at least in comparison to marketing from outside the industry.  Physec marketing is the land of 24 yr old recent college graduates + former industry media editors with their own 'public relations' firms.

There are ZERO physec companies that I would laud for their marketing efforts.

imo, most of our industry uses social media as just another arm of their traditional broadcast media... i.e. "Check out how great we are!" posts ad nauseam.

Ring is a great example of how marketing works - and I can not think of any traditional physec company that are even close to understanding how people (potential customers) think - and understanding what makes them buy..

Just because you pump out a lot of crap on social media  (Axis marketing) doesn't mean that your crap is influential at all - and, instead, just becomes a series of dry, uninteresting industry pedantics.

*Note:  I didn't start this post hating Axis at all.... I just note that they are one of the most prolific social media content posters in our industry.  and the value of what they produce I personally find to be minimal.

i.e. I have more respect for companies that just don't understand social media, vs those - like Axis - that pretend to understand but actually do not.

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I agree that any significant player that misses or reduces at ISC West raises some concerns.  I would also say anyone missing for a few years would certainly lose customers.  If you aren’t taking care of them, someone is going to. 

Then the show strategy of acquiring the best placement follows the professional stadium ticketing system.  If you spend the most or pay the longest you get rewarded.  If you shrink or skip a year, they penalize you in placement. 

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I would also say anyone missing for a few years would certainly lose customers. If you aren’t taking care of them, someone is going to.

While I get what you are saying this surely cannot be the approach your company truly takes to retaining and growing it's business.  I have 3-4 meetings a year on site at our headquarters with each of our preferred manufacturers to see what is new, roadmap large projects we have coming up, discuss the issues we have seen over the last quarter, new challenges we are facing and how they or their partners can solve them, etc.  If you do not have a group of business development, or strategic accounts people you should really look into that approach taking care of the customer is not having a booth at ISC or GSX it is making yourself a partner with a joint interest in seeing the customer succeed.  We don't even attend ISC West in any meaningful fashion, maybe 1 or 2 of our 20 or so employees will go, and this is only because it is expected of us.  

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It has been said elsewhere, but what is also interesting to consider in this context is the dropoff of ASIS (excuse me GSX).  Manufacturers used to have two primary options for "big" broad-market shows, but many now see ISCW as the only major "investment" in North America.  That said, vertical specific shows (IACLEA, IAHSS, etc..) probably see more impact from the decline in ASIS.

Something that goes counter to the negative connotations "tax" of the thread, is the value in travel savings of sales reps.  Having many meetings/prospects come to you, versus the manufacturer going to them all over the region/country, is of value (at least in terms of quarterly visits/direct touch).  This value manifests both in saved travel costs and employee's time.  In terms of budgeting April or Q2 travel this can have a positive impact for some companies.

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Something that goes counter to the negative connotations "tax" of the thread, is the value in travel savings of sales reps

That makes sense. I think the tax aspect is more about the cost of big booths on the show floor. That gets very expensive quickly.

I did just notice you have a booth in the lobby and tripled it since last year. 

I guess it worked well. What's your experience been positioned there?

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Lobby was great for us.  Lots of new activity pre-show before the doors opened to the main floor.

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Our presence at ISC West is far more about reinforcing that we are partners in the ecosystem. We make a widget that is necessary for many in this industry and as such we have a role to play here. Of course we have our own social media and online messaging as well as year round face to face engagement with key customers.  

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I remember listening to concerns and criticism about manufacturers who dropped out of ASIS 2017 and it continued for 2018. I feel that if a company already has some cracks in their image, or market position, the negative opinions amplify if they abandon a common show they have done in the past.

 

Their partners may not be aware of the strategic reason, the competition can easily point out the lack of their presence, and end users may raise eyebrows.

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Of all the problems that companies like FLIR, UTC, Hikvision, etc. have (all companies who recently did not exhibit at ASIS), the fact that they did not exhibit at ASIS is low on the list.

Usually, these companies have real fundamental positioning problems, not simply the fact they did not go to a show.

Did FLIR not exhibiting at ASIS cause the problems or was not exhibiting at ASIS a result of the problems? I think it's the later.

Other examples, Avigilon and Genetec have relatively small booths. If you judged companies by the size of their booths you'd think they were mediocre. For example, IndigoVision has a bigger booth than both of those companies but IV does 90% less revenue than either.

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This is an interesting conversation. Not sure size matters that much (unless there is a very substantial decrease in booth size over a previous trend), but I agree with Clint that not showing up at all can open the door to having the competition emphasize any other negative points about the company, or put recent news in a negative light.

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ISC West barely draws an audience relative to the size of those involved in the security industry in the US. Far more people sit ISC West out than attend it, from the perspective of potential buyers/customers.

Sure, if you skip out of ISC West, or ASIS/GSX, you are going to lose some exposure, and ultimately will lose some business, but it is very questionable if the lost business would outweigh the cost of attending, particularly if you put the ISC West exhibit money to something else instead (hire 2 more sales people, give a free sample of your newest product to your top X dealers, etc.).

 

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Far more people sit ISC West out than attend it, from the perspective of potential buyers/customers.

But in terms of 'decision makers', both end user and channel, for North America, ISC West probably has the majority there.

I just don't know how much it counts to have or not have a booth, i.e., how swayed is a decision maker by booth size / absence?

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But in terms of 'decision makers', both end user and channel, for North America, ISC West probably has the majority there.

At one point I would have agreed with you, but I really don't think this is true any more. 

ISC West claimed 30K people at the 2018 show. Let's just assume their number is accurate. They also said 1,000 exhibitors, and I would wager the "average" exhibitor has at least 10 people there. You might have maybe 20,000 non-exhibitors at the show. I would further wager that "decision makers" are less than 1/4 the total audience. As an exhibitor for 10+ years, my experience has been there are a lot of lower-level people that attend ISC West. Techs who are there for training, mid-level sales guys from various integrators, lots of people basically "along for the ride".

Among the attendees are a fair number of international attendees, who may or may not be the target audience for the average ISC West exhibitor.

Actual decision-maker level people likely number 3,000 or less, and when you consider that large organizations will frequently have several "decision maker" types, the number of individual high-level organizations that show up for ISC West, relative to the total market size, is less than a majority by far (IMO).

California alone has over 3,000,000 registered businesses. Even if just 1% of those were "decision makers" of ISC West products and services, it would be statistically impossible for them to all send their decision makers to the show, given the reported numbers.

There are ~6,000 companies listed on the NASDAQ and NYSE combined. A vast majority of those are likely to be buyers of ISC West products (though they may only make true buying decisions every few years). Then you have several hundred very large private companies. Do you think a majority of these companies are sending decision makers to ISC West?

ISC West attendees are a microcosm of security industry customers.

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Those are good points!

For end users, I agree, though I am pretty sure it skews towards higher attendance rate for larger companies, e.g., a majority of Fortune 500 companies might have at least 1 person attending ISC West but more broadly, for end users, it will be much lower.

The main counter there would be integrators. Take integrators doing $2 million or more in revenue. How many of them are there in the US? 500?  1,000? A few thousand? I would think a majority of them have a 'decision maker' at the show.

All that said, I do agree about the change over time. I just checked back for the 2008 ISC West results (back when the results were actually audited), and ISC West reported 26,362 back then. So their annual growth rate is ~1% while the industry is obviously far bigger now.

And back then online was much smaller, IPVM and LinkedIn were in their infancy, now we get 200,000+ visits per month regularly, etc.

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ISC West barely draws an audience relative to the size of those involved in the security industry in the US.

sure, but when are there more people “involved in the security industry” in one place at one time? 

and when are there more whales in one place?

almost like shooting fish* in a barrel...

*yes, I know whales are technically not fish

 

 

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sure, but when are there more people “involved in the security industry” in one place at one time?

ISC West is certainly the most "target rich" environment for the security industry by far.

Let me pose a thought experiment. Let's say you are the CEO of some random security industry company. Would you rather make 1 sale to every security product buyer at ISC West, or would you rather make 1 sale to every security product buyer NOT at ISC West? (assume we are talking about a pool of North America buyers only, not global).

and when are there more whales in one place?

The whales don't make decisions at ISC West, they call the participants to THEM, in their office, on their timeline. 

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Would you rather make 1 sale to every security product buyer at ISC West, or would you rather make 1 sale to every security product buyer NOT at ISC West?

well since you put it that way, I guess I would rather “make 1 sale to every security product buyer NOT at ISC West”.

so what week of the year do they typically all get together and where?

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so what week of the year do they typically all get together and where?

You must be replying to a different thread. The premise of this discussion is that ISC West is a "must attend" kind of tax, with speculation that the "majority" of decision makers attend it. My position is that it does not draw a majority audience and it is not a must-attend event. That does not mean there is some alternate event with a better audience, but that you still need to work the market at large, not attend trade shows, to really make numbers in the security industry.

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You must be replying to a different thread.

i think you must be right, sorry for the confusion.

in the thread I meant to replying to, I was responding to the poster’s classic false dilemma:

Would you rather make 1 sale to every security product buyer at ISC West, or would you rather make 1 sale to every security product buyer NOT at ISC West?

where obviously there is no mutual exclusion between the two options.

 

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where obviously there is no mutual exclusion between the two options.

I thought that would be obvious when I stated that it was a "thought experiment".

Are you currently working in the security industry in some facet of sales?

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Are you currently working in the security industry in some facet of sales? - (emphasis added)

this question, (if the answer is perceived to be lacking), serves as a fiendishly clever prelude to an subsequent ad hominem.

if left unanswered, the question itself becomes the ad hom.

well done, sir!

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It's the peacocks feathers of the video-surveillance industry; the bigger and more  elaborate the exhibit, the stronger the company must be. Naturally, it's not a sure thing - an "imposter" might put on a magnificent show, yet be in dire straits, but if you want to play in the big league, you better participate.

So, no, you're not "invisible", but some customers may think you're not as strong as someone who shells out $$$ for a nice booth, hotels and travel for a lot of staff to populate said booth (plus whatever parties you gotta host later in the day).

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"It's the peacocks feathers of the video-surveillance industry; the bigger and more elaborate the exhibit, the stronger the company must be."

I do not think that most people with IQs above 90 believe this. (not that this class is under-represented at ISC West).

This show - while being the #1 manufacturer industry show in the US each year and attracting many industry exhibitors (young and old) - is a marketing dinosaur.

There are far better ways to spend your money to increase your own footprint in the industry than spending this kind of scratch on having a booth for 2.5 days.

I'd love to hear from industry traditionalists on why my viewpoint is wrong here.

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It's the peacocks feathers of the video-surveillance industry

I agree with that. The question, though, is how much are those peacock feathers worth?

but if you want to play in the big league, you better participate.

Take OnSSI last year:

They could have downsized to 20 x 20, saved easily $100,000

I would say the same for Arecont, IDIS, many other companies...

The concern I see is that booth size is a very expensive and inefficient way to 'peacock' because regardless of how big your booth is, it still is only in one small portion of the show floor and the cost to expand booth size is extremely high. Agree? Disagree?

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Actual conversation:

Me: "I think we shouldn't use Hikvision/Dahua cameras anymore because of ___ and ___ and ___"

Boss: "I wish you could come out to ISC West and see how big their booth is."

Me: grinds teeth

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Boss: "I wish you could come out to ISC West and see how big their booth is."

Lol, don't forget about the Hikvision party! :)

There is no doubt that spending money on marketing and events increases sales. The question is whether it increases sales enough to cover the heavy expenses involved.

For example, we regularly hear about salespeople being offered jobs at Hikvision for $50k to $100k more than they are making at already prominent manufacturers. Hikvision is going to get some salespeople that way but is that profitable and sustainable for them? Hard to see that.

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If that was truly an actual conversation you need to find a new job because your boss is an idiot.

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In retrospect, I think he might have been teasing me because I'd been lobbying against Hikvision and Dahua for a while. But, as with all good teasing, I'm not really sure if he meant it or not.

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I agree that it is inefficient, but that's because it needs to be.

You have to make a statement that says "look at how rich I am; I can afford all this space that I don't need". Axis could have a micro-booth with a single large 4K OLED screen and a bunch of reference recordings from their cameras, but they have this massive booth with a lot of empty space to show how big and strong they are.

Ultimately, I don't think you can get around it. Saving $100K and getting a smaller booth could turn out to be a really bad move. You will almost certainly have people saying "oh. they're in such bad shape, they even got a smaller booth", and that can be more damaging than the extra cost to keep the booth size and not have to deal with it.

Could you do something different? Yeah, I think so, but it would require a truly remarkable product, and a courageous management, and those are rare (non-existent?)

I also agree, that there are probably 200 other things you should do correctly BEFORE you start spending $$$ on feathers. If your product is bad, then perhaps fix that, get your other stuff sorted otherwise it's a waste.

(as a side note : remember that Apple never had a booth at CES, and it worked out just fine - but they still spent big, big $$$ on their alternative).

 

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You will almost certainly have people saying "oh. they're in such bad shape, they even got a smaller booth", and that can be more damaging than the extra cost to keep the booth size and not have to deal with it.

Sometimes. It really depends on the company, if a company that is already rumored to be struggling does this (Arecont, OnSSI, Vicon, etc.) then it will be taken as a sign of weakness unless the company can do something significant to offset that perception.

If Avigilon, Axis, Genetec, or Milestone did this, and owned it with a simple statement like "we are going to spend more money on our partner programs" or "keep from having to raise prices" or something similar they might have a few folks still throw stones at them, but it really wouldn't leave a mark.

 

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So here's the deal. I work with a lot of guys who aren't what I call computer savvy. Most of them can get their jobs done, but they sometimes need help for basic Microsoft Windows tasks. These are the guys the company is made up of and they are the ones who make the decisions.

They don't connect well through the Internet. They aren't just going to pull up IPVM and look through a directory. They have to talk to people.

When they want a new product, ISC West is their search engine. It's always, "We need to find something at ISC West". Maybe they'll put together a list of companies at ISC West that they want to talk to. But when they're really trying to find something, they want to talk to people face-to-face, and the easiest way to talk to all these people is at ISC West.

For us, it doesn't matter much what manufacturers do online. If they show up at ISC West and talk well and do a nice demonstration, my boss is going to come back thinking they're the bee's knees. If a company isn't there, we might consider them, but they'll be at a serious disadvantage.

That's what it's like for our company. No idea how common this is in the industry.

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It is not at all uncommon, but it is also a very bad method for researching and selecting the products your company is going to base its business on (IMO).

ISC West (or similar trade shows) should be one of several weighted inputs for picking which companies you want to partner with, not the sole or primary method.

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Im on the fence. If your goal is to achieve new customers, can the marketing dollars that you would spend on ISC west be better spent elsewhere? It also depends on what type of company you are. 

For larger manufacturers and companies, the big money to be spent at ISC west is probably trivial. For them, its probably more of a brand awareness thing to meet up with current customers, show off new products, etc.

For smaller companies, i think thats where it becomes "On The Fence". Ill take us for example. I figure it would probably take at minimum 20k to even have a small booth after all costs are considered. The problem with small booths like this, is they often get overlooked and passed by, especially if you dont have some outstanding differentiating factor that makes you stand out from the sea of other similar companies that are there. Im not so sure we would see a big ROI. If I had a choice to spend 20k on ISC west or Facebook Advertising for my company, I would choose Facebook Advertising. 

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Sean, or you could be like Avycon who has a 20 x 30 booth, which, all-in, is going to cost closer to $100k:

Those are the type of booths that are headscratchers to me. You got to sell a boatload of relabelled TVT cameras to justify that booth.

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A partial ship load of containers actually.  Boats are small or submarines ;)

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Maybe the purpose is not to impress people who buy CCTV cameras, but instead to impress people who buy companies.

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Lol, it's much easier to trick some dealers to buy relabeled products than investors on that. What is to buy with a company like Avycon or Invid or the dozens of small companies that relabel products?

There is one recent comparable, FLIR sold off its SMB / Lorex business (back) to Dahua that generated $140 million in annual sales for just $29 million. So that does not bode well for others.

My perception is that these companies generally know that selling off the business is unrealistic so they are hoping to make cash from operations. But anyone with particular insight into that model, please share / explain to me.

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I think that's a little strong, but hearing a company doesn't even exhibit at ISC West makes me think that they're too small to be taken seriously. 

If Axis doesn't make it to ISC West next year, it wouldn't make a bit of difference to their bottom line, but if Hikvision doesn't make it to ISC West next year, IPVM would have a four inch blood red blinking headline letting everybody know about it, because  that will be a big, significant story. 

ISC West is an industry tax. If you don't exhibit, you're not very important. 

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